There are a number of major Israel-focused Christian conferences and events scheduled for 2015, several of which are to be held in Jerusalem. They all emphasize bringing Israelis to christ and empowering the messianic Christian movement. Included among these missionary happenings are REZ's Israel Summit Stand Firm, ICEJ's Envision Pastors and Leaders Conference , Empowered 21 Global Congress, and the Lausanne Conference on Jewish Evangelism (LCJE).
In the past, the most widely publicized evangelical events in Israel have publically downplayed the proselytizing message to the Jews and the evangelical connections with the messianic movement in Israel. Instead these events were billed as pilgrimages with an emphasis on worship as well as on expressing solidarity with the Jewish State. What has been going on inside the auditoriums is another matter. Since 2009 JewishIsrael has regularly provided reports, complete with video footage, on the conversionary agenda of many of these events such as the Global Day of Prayer, Global Prayer Initiative, Elav Concerts and Sid Roth's conversion extravaganza.
There now appears to be a more disturbing trend which takes "religious freedom and expression" in Israel to a new level and which marks a very public and orchestrated collaboration between prominent Christian Zionist leaders and renowned missionary and messianic leaders. It seems that evangelicals have set in motion a three-pronged approach, which:
This unification and reconciliation theme has surfaced in the past, but has always been somewhat surreptitious, with Israel's leaders either ignoring the undercurrents or simply being duped. For example, in August 2007, Rabbi Benny Elon, former MK, Minister of Tourism and Chairman of the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus (KCAC), inadvertently found himself being asked to bless a messianic revival conference in Jerusalem, sponsored by Pastor Jack Hayford. It is worth noting that Israel's Ministry of Tourism has had no problem using a renowned missionary such as Hayford as their poster boy.
More recently, in October 2014 JewishIsrael reported on an attempt by Dr. Raleigh Washington of Promise Keepers Ministry to team up with messianic pastor/rabbi Jonathan Cahn and the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America (MJAA) in a One Message campaign of unity with messianic leaders in Israel. The movement's mega event, under the banner "Jesus Reigns", was to take place outside Jerusalem's Old City Walls, but had to be postponed when a major sponsor reportedly backed down.
Past and present CUFI executive board members and directors are openly joining with their messianic brothers and sisters and jumping on the "to the Jew first" bandwagon. We see the same new openness from Christian Zionist organizations such as the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ). In the past the ICEJ consistently tried to modulate their indisputable associations with those who target Jews for conversion in Israel. However, since the departure of former ICEJ director Malcolm Hedding, there seems to have been a policy change with ICEJ directors Jurgen Buhler, Juha Ketola and David Parsons, who all openly collaborate with messianic missionary leaders in Israel. This was especially evident at the ICEJ’s 2014 Feast of the Tabernacles and at Robert Stearns' Day of Prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem which took place last October. Messianic leaders are now an integral part, if not the main feature, of ICEJ's Envision Pastors and Leaders Conferences.
The US Government Declares Proselytizing Legal in Israel
The current transparency and zeal of these evangelical organizations striving to bring Jews to Jesus in Israel, should be of concern to all Jewish Israelis. However, the Israeli government is not in a position to stop such events, because the US State Department considers such censure a violation of International Religious Freedoms legislation.
Over the last 40 years, Israel has become dependent on the Christian tourism industry, Christian Zionist US Congressional support and evangelical-led hasbara efforts. All of this makes it difficult to protest what amounts to a "Jesus revolution" in Israel.
The State Department’s annual International Religious Freedom Report for Israel and the Occupied Territories has over the past several years made a point of emphasizing the legality of proselytizing in Israel:
"Proselytizing is legal for all religious groups. The law prohibits offering a material benefit as an inducement to conversion. It is also illegal to convert a person under 18 unless one parent is an adherent of the religious group seeking to convert the minor. Despite the legality of proselytism, the government generally discourages proselytizing and encourages the popular perception that it is illegal. The MOI [Israel Ministry of the Interior] occasionally cites proselytizing as a reason to deny student, work, and religious visa extensions, as well as to deny permanent residency petitions." - International Religious Freedom Report for 2013 Israel and the Occupied Territories
Although this may come as a surprise to many in the Jewish community, it important to clarify that proselytizing is legal in Israel. There is nobody who likes to bring that to the attention of the Christian world more than the evangelical-run Jerusalem Institute of Justice (JIJ). JIJ's founder, Attorney Calev Myers and his partner, Attorney Michael Decker, are in the forefront of the battle to change the Jewish nature of the State of Israel and the very definition of Judaism. As a result, over the past few years JIJ has been cited as a source of information in the State Department Religious Freedoms reports, which are critical of Orthodox Jewish tradition as well as Israel’s treatment of missionaries and messianic Christians who try to make aliyah as Jews. Excerpt:
"MOI officials continued to deny citizenship or deny or delay services such as child registration and issuance of social benefits, identity cards, and passports to some citizens based on their religious beliefs, according to the Jerusalem Institute of Justice, an NGO. This included cases of individuals who immigrated under the Law of Return as Jews but were discovered to hold Messianic or Christian beliefs." - International Religious Freedom Report for 2013 Israel and the Occupied Territories
That JIJ has expressed extreme views against Orthodox Jewish groups and has an overt pro-messianic Christian agenda and that partners Decker and Myers are regularly featured keynote speakers at events which aspire to bring faith in Jesus to the Jews, apparently poses no ethical issue or conflict of interest for the US State Department.
ICEJ Out of the Closet in an Open Partnership with Israel's Messianic Leadership
Don't let a mere half of Calev Myers' face on the ICEJ Envision 2015 promotional banner fool you. The ICEJ is openly and fully networking and cooperating with Israel's messianic leadership, who are committed to bringing the gospel to the Jews and gaining a Christian foothold in Israel.
ICEJ's Envision Pastors and Leaders Conference for 2015 was held last week, from January 26 to 29, 2015. The conference presented itself as an opportunity for evangelical leaders to network with messianic missionary leaders in Israel. For example, the opening day featured Tel Aviv born Avi Mizrachi, Messianic leader of Israel's Dugit Messianic Outreach Center and Adonai Roi Congregation.
Mizrachi is a missionary, who enjoys support from Evangelical churches in America, Europe and Asia. He is very public about his agenda and beliefs, actively aspiring for the day when Israel’s entire population will accept and worship Jesus. Mizrachi is also a regularly featured speaker at the ICEJ's Feast of the Tabernacles, and the ICEJ markets Mizrachi's teachings.
Last year's ICEJ Envision 2014 conference featured Israeli evangelical messianic leaders Calev Myers, Peter Tsukahira of Haifa's Or HaCarmel Ministry and Wayne Hilsden, Senior Pastor of King of Kings messianic community based in Jerusalem's Clal Center.
At ICEJ's Envision conference, Hilsden went to great lengths to explain to the audience the success and the strategy behind the rapid expansion of the messianic movement in Israel. Excerpts of his presentation can and should be watched here.
There is no longer any doubt that the ICEJ is actively involved in and dedicating great resources towards establishing and growing an active and strong Jesus-believing community of "Jews" in Israel.
CUFI Leadership "Stands Firm" with Messianic Missionaries
Calev Myers of JIJ and Wayne Hilsden of KKCJ will also be featured speakers at the Israel Summit Stand Firm, to be held in Loveland Colorado from February 4-6, 2015, under the auspices of Resurrection Fellowship (REZ). The conference, which is reportedly sold out, is a collaboration between America's most determined missionaries to the Jews and Israeli messianic leadership. The message and evangelizing agenda comes across loud and clear from the conference’s publicity:
"’FOR CHRIST HAS BROUGHT PEACE TO US. HE UNITED JEWS AND GENTILES IN ONE PEOPLE WHEN, IN HIS OWN BODY ON THE CROSS, HE BROUGHT DOWN THE WALL OF HOSTILITY THAT SEPARATED US.’ - Ephesians 2-14
"GOD IS CALLING YOU AND ME TO CARRY ON THE LEGACY OF GOD'S HEART FOR THE JEWS. We are to acknowledge and seek after the blessing God promises to those who will bless Israel, and to refuse to silence the life-changing Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth."
It is disturbing, but no longer surprising to see a formidable team of Israeli messianic leaders such as Calev Myers and Wayne Hilsdon featured alongside Jonathan Bernis, Jack Hayford and Michael Brown. But what should really raise Jewish eyebrows is the participation of CUFI executive board member Pastor George Morrison. Morrison also serves as a regional director for CUFI.
While it is not unusual for those who are serving or have served as CUFI leaders, such as Stephen Strang, Robert Stearns, James Hutchens, Keith Butler and Michael Little, to support messianic missionaries and their endeavors in Israel and abroad, this may be the first time that an active CUFI director has lent his name and services to a major high-profile evangelical conference focused on spreading the gospel to the Jews and building Israel's messianic community.
Pentecostals Empowered in Jerusalem
Empowered21, a Pentecostal Global Congress, will be holding a mega-conference in Jerusalem from May 20 to 25, 2015. Billed as "the largest Christian gathering in Jerusalem in modern history", the movement’s vision is:
"THAT EVERY PERSON ON EARTH WOULD HAVE AN AUTHENTIC ENCOUNTER WITH JESUS CHRIST THROUGH THE POWER AND PRESENCE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT… BY PENTECOST 2033."
Once again, this conference will feature as speakers Christian Zionist leaders such as former CUFI directors Robert Stearns and Stephen Strang, and ICEJ's Jurgen Buhler, alongside Israeli messianic Christian missionary leaders Wayne Hilden, Avi Mizrachi, Marcel Rebiai and Tom Hess.
Hilsden is being promoted on an Empowered21 webpage carrying the headlines "Preparing Jerusalem for their King". Excerpts:
Of additional concern is the participation of powerful and aggressive evangelical leaders and organizations who have continuously dedicated major resources to converting Jews and who preach a conversionary agenda. These include Morris Cerullo, TBN Russia's Igor Nikitin, E.A (Enoch) Adeboye , Convoy of Hope and "Assemblies of God".
More than "reconciliation", the emphasis of these conferences should perhaps be "reunion", as many of the missionaries involved in planting churches and "messianic" congregations in Israel were sent on their missions by such entities as the "Assemblies of God" and "Christ for the Nations" (CFNI), both of which are partnering on behalf of Empowered21 Jerusalem.
For example, CFNI, based in Dallas, has a significant circle of missionary family and alumni operating in Israel, among them Ari and Shira Sorko Ram of Maoz Ministries, Shani Ferguson of Yeshua Israel, Avi Mizrachi of Dugit, Peter and Rita Tsukahira of Kehilat HaCarmel and Ray and Sharon Sanders of Christians Friends of Israel (CFI).
Sponsors for the Empowered21 Jerusalem 2015 Global Congress include established Christian Zionist organizations such as ICEJ, Bridges for Peace, The Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), Charisma Magazine and Christian Friends of Yad Vashem.
Sar El Tours is a very popular messianic-run tourism company in Israel. Sar El is a sponsor and by some accounts "the official appointed tour operators for the Empowered21 Global Congress in Israel". Sar-El Tours is owned and operated by Samuel Smadja, an Israeli messianic pastor. Smadja can be heard at the 1.34 mark of this video explaining his agenda and why it is so difficult for the Jewish mind to accept jesus as the son of god.
Convert the Jew Conference Scheduled for August 2015 in Jerusalem
The fourth and final conference covered in this report is the 10th International Conference of the Lausanne Consultation on Jewish Ev... (LCJE). It is scheduled to be held in Jerusalem from August 16 to 21, 2015. With a title like that, no in-depth explanation is needed as to the agenda. Suffice it to say that LCJE is a "special interest committee" of the highly influential Lausanne Movement, and closely affiliated with Jews for Jesus and Chosen People Ministries.
Most Christian Zionist organizations still do their best to avoid LCJE's in-your-face-convert-the-Jews gatherings. However the same cannot be said for Pastor Wayne Hilsden of KKCJ and previously mentioned Israeli Evangelical Attorneys Calev Myers and Michel Decker of JIJ, who have lent their expertise to LCJE conferences in the past.
Worth noting is that a number of "pro-Israel" evangelical and messianic organizations are recently reeling after the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization took a swipe at Christian Zionism, by publishing a piece in their publication, "Lausanne Global Analysis" which reportedly asserts that Christian Zionism has a "very narrow theological narrative." and was " ill conceived".
That Jerusalem will be making preparations to host a conference that is openly focused on eradicating Judaism is beyond the pale and most certainly pushes the "religious freedoms" envelope over the edge.
Jewish leadership's role in empowering missionaries
As pointed out in a number of earlier JewishIsrael reports, it is highly problematic when Jewish activists and leadership empower missionary organizations by partnering with them.
Yet for years Eliezer Braun of Shuva Israel (www.blessingisrael.com) has engaged in fundraising and “spiritual bridge-building” with Resurrection Fellowship (REZ), the sponsors of the Israel Summit Stand Firm missionary conference cited earlier in this report. REZ has a number of missionaries operating in Israel.
World Jewish Congress President Ron Lauder had the very best intentions when he spoke and signed a letter against the persecution of Christians at the hands of Muslims at the October 2014 ICEJ Feast of the Tabernacles. Yet now he can find himself literally on the same page as those actively working to evangelize in Israel as a part of the Empowered21 Jerusalem 2015 Global Congress. That very same Empowered21 article spells out their agenda for every person to know jesus christ, announcing their upcoming Jerusalem Global Congress to that effect. All this a mere two sentences after citing Ron Lauder's commitment as a Jew to speak out on behalf of Christians.
But perhaps the most stunning example of the abyss to which Jewish leadership has led us is best illustrated by charting the meteoric rise and acceptance into Israeli society of influential Christian missionary Joel Rosenberg. Rosenberg is someone who partners with and promotes the most aggressive organizations targeting Jews for conversion.
Less than a year ago, in April 2014 Rabbi Riskin and Ohr Torah Stone hosted Joel Rosenberg at New York’s Lincoln Square Synagogue. The event was a publicity coup for Rosenberg and granted legitimacy to the messianic missionary movement, with Mitch Glaser the President of Chosen People Ministries proclaiming:
“I attended the dialogue and am convinced that it was a significant event! I have been a believer for forty-two years, I come from a traditional Jewish background, and I never thought I would hear a clear testimony for Jesus in a modern Orthodox synagogue (the type of synagogue in which I was raised!)”
Four months later in August 2014, Joel Rosenberg announces that he and his family will be making Aliyah to Israel as Christians.
"Based on my Jewish roots on my father’s side, the State of Israel has granted us citizenship. We are now dual citizens of the United States and Israel, and are deeply grateful to the Lord for making this possible in His timing and by His grace."
On January 1, 2015 JewishIsrael was forwarded a mobile message of Joel Rosenberg reporting on his lunch with former Deputy Foreign Minister and Israel's Ambassador to the United States, Daniel Ayalon and his wife Anne.
[Note: Since its inception, JewishIsrael has written a number of reports on the Ayalons and their involvement and endeavors with evangelical Christian leadership.]
It has come to the point where Jewish leadership might consider tearing kriyah and reciting al-chet over its active and direct role in ushering these Christian “friends” into our midst and facilitating our “friends” long-time aim to spiritually destroy us, heaven forbid. Tragically, it is far easier and much less painful for our politicians, rabbis and leaders to "turn the other cheek", dismiss the facts and view this incursion as evidence of a new and "prophetic" era of Christian "love".